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Wendy Petersen-Boring

Associate Professor of History

Headshot of Wendy Petersen-Boring

Contact Information

Salem Campus

Eaton 102
900 State Street
Salem  Oregon  97301
503-370-6944 (Fax)


  • PhD, Yale University
  • MAR, Yale Divinity School
  • BA History, Willamette University


Medieval history; women and gender studies; environmental history and ethics; embodiment studies; contemplative studies and mysticism; epistemology and spirituality in Western philosophical and religious traditions.

Wendy Petersen Boring and David Gutterman are Co-PI's for The Conversation Project. The Conversation Project at Willamette University is an initiative to cultivate conversation across differences. Committed to principles of equity and inclusion, the Conversation Project celebrates the importance of storytelling as a vital means of recognizing and understanding differences in experience, culture, and power that shape our communities. Supported by grants from the American Council on Immigration Center for Inclusion and Belonging and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning, the Project encompasses research, curriculum development, workshops, and events.



HIST 315: Western Civilization and Sustainability, Nature, Climate, Ethics to 170  (ENVS)
HIST 319:  Medieval Europe
HIST 375: Women and Gender in Medieval Europe (WGS)
HIST 374:  Love and Reason in the Middle Ages (REL)
HIST 131:  The Crusades (REL)
HIST 131:  Popular Culture in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (REL)
HIST 444:  Historiography
HIST 379:  Bodies, Medieval and Modern

Interdisciplinary Studies

IDS 399/429:  The Conversation Project (HIST, PPLE)
IDS 399:  Climate, Race, Economy - New Systems Thinking (ECON, ENVS, PPLE, HIST)
IDS 353:  The Inner Life of Activism (REL, HIST)
IDS 214:  Food Justice (PHEAL, ENVS)
IDS 299:  Working with the Land (ENVS)
IDS 330: What is Embodiment? (HIST, PPLE)
IDS 101:  Cascadia: Reimagining a Bioregion
IDS 101:  From Consumer to Citizen: Developing an Ethics of Place
IDS 313:  Creating Stories for Social Change (HIST, CCM)
HUM 499:  Humanities Senior Seminar: Dante’s Divine Comedy



Teaching Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences. Wendy Petersen Boring and William Forbes, eds. SFA Press/Texas A&M Press, 2014.

Articles and book chapters 

“Identities and Inheritances: Reimagining Food Landscapes in the Pacific Northwest,” with co-author Katy Giombolini, Good Eats!  32 Writers on Eating Ethically, eds. Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa Goldthwaite, NYU Press, January 2024.

“Seeking Ecstasy:   Wonder and Cognitive Arrest in Bonaventure’s Itinerarium Mentis in Deum,” Medioevo 28, 2023.

“Alongside Aaron,” Contemplative Practices and Acts of Resistance in Higher Education: Narratives Toward WholenessNew York:  Routledge - forthcoming, 2024.

“Claiming God at the Intersection of Ethics and Climate Change,” Claiming God:  Papers in Honor of Marilyn McCord Adams, Wipf & Stock, 2022.

“Western Civilization and Sustainability:  Reflections on Cross-Pollinating the Humanities and Environmental Science.”  Environmental History (2010) 15 (2):  288-304.

“Historical Consciousness in an Age of Climate Change,” and “Introduction,” Teaching Sustainability:  Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, eds. Wendy Petersen Boring and William Forbes, SFA Press/Texas A&M Press, 2014.

“Revising our approach to ‘Augustinian illumination:’ a reconsideration of Bonaventure’s Quaestiones disputatae de scientia Christi IV, Aquinas’s Summa theologiae Ia.84, 1-8, and Henry of Ghent’s, Summa quaestionum ordinarum, Q. 2, art. 1, 2.  Franciscan Studies (2010) vol. 68:  39-81.

Competitive Grants

Center for Inclusion and Belonging, Belonging Innovation Fellowship, Conversation and Civic Engagement at Willamette University, Co-PI with Dr. David Gutterman, 2022-2023.  

Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Project Grant, Connecting in the Classroom:  Lessons from Community-Based Organizations, 2020-2022, Co-PI with David Gutterman, 2020-2022

Conference Papers

“The Conversation Project: Infusing Contemplative Practices Across the Curriculum to Support Dialogue Across Difference and Decrease Polarization On College Campuses,” International Society for Contemplative Research Conference, San Diego, February 2023. 

“Ideas in Motion:  Facilitating Dialogues Across Difference,” National Humanities Conference, Los Angeles, November 2022.  Workshop presented with four Willamette faculty colleagues. 

“The Inner Life of Activism and the Conversation Project: Alternative Contemplative Pedagogies to Revitalize Higher Education,” Contemplation, Ecology, and the Post-Human, American Academy of Religion Annual Conference, Denver, November 2022. 

“God’s Self-Diffusing Goodness:  Bonaventure, Evolutionary Biology, and Cosmic Order,” Society of Christian Philosophers, Festschrift in honor of Marilyn McCord Adams, American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, November 2017. 

“The Middle Ages and the Anthropocene:  Representing Medieval History as Relevant to Climate Change,” Medieval Association of the Pacific Conference, Loyola Marymount University, March 17, 2017.


Select online publications and press

“Resources of the Spirit in the Race Against Climate Change,” Millennial Alliance for Humans and the Biosphere June 12, 2019

“Teaching to the Existential Experience of Climate Change,” and “Student Perspectives” Millennial Alliance for Humans and the Biosphere June 19, 2019

“Climate Anxiety is Real, but there is something you can do about it,” CNN Health, May. 7, 2019

Essays for St. Bartholomew’s World:  An Introduction to Medieval Scholasticism for Students of Latin - online, interactive Stanford University initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Bonaventure, Introduction
 “On the Necessity of Being
Is the Human the Image of God?
 "On Sensation and the Microcosm"


Petersen Boring connects history, sustainability for her students

The American poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry once said, “If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are.”

For Wendy Petersen Boring ’89, this quote rings true.

“I grew up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley — fishing the streams, hiking the forests and mountains, walking the beaches and rafting the rivers,” says Petersen Boring, a fifth-generation Oregonian. “It’s as necessary as the air I breathe to be in this area, where I have this unbelievably strong sense of place.”

Now a Willamette University history professor, Petersen Boring says her sense of place helps connect the concepts of history and sustainability — a perspective she hopes to pass on to her students.

“We need a history that forms the fiber of our identity and gives us a sense of purpose and vision for our collective future,” she says. “When students interrogate the term ‘sustainability’ and figure out what it means for them, in this place, they are better able to apply this concept to their everyday lives.”

From Student to Professor

As a Willamette undergraduate, Petersen Boring never dreamed she would one day become a professor at her alma mater.

Her plan was to attend law school, so after graduating with a history degree, she enrolled at University of Oregon Law School. But when she started sneaking out of class to attend lectures on medieval history, Petersen Boring realized she didn’t want to be a lawyer: she wanted to teach.

Changing paths, she went on to earn a master’s of arts in religion and a doctorate in history from Yale University. And in 2006, Willamette hired her as a full-time history professor.

“Willamette produces life-long learners, and I consider myself the product of a good liberal arts education,” she says. “I did not expect it, but I am thrilled to be back.”

Now in her eighth year teaching at Willamette, Petersen Boring’s former history professors have become her colleagues — including her college mentor, Bill Duvall.

“When I was an undergraduate, I took six classes from professor Duvall,” Petersen Boring says. “He introduced me to the principle that has guided my work ever since: history is alive.”

To help history come alive for her own students, Petersen Boring’s courses cut across disciplines — from “Women and Gender in Medieval Europe,” to “Western Civilization and Sustainability: Beginnings to 1600.”

Marshall Curry ’13 — who majored in sociology and minored in Spanishand chemistry — says this interdisciplinary focus draws students from a wide range of majors and class years.

“Wendy’s energy engages different types of students to respond in her classes,” he says. “She creates a safe space for everyone to practice adding to the discussion.”

Sustainability Education

Petersen Boring doesn’t just engage students in classroom discussion — she asks them to examine their values and the way they live.

“We wrestle with the questions, ‘what would it look like to have a society that is more sustainable?’ and ‘how can we move toward a more sustainable society?’” she says. “The answers are tied to an individual’s sense of place and sense of tending to a community.”

For Petersen Boring, examining these questions resulted in tangible lifestyle changes — including replacing her front lawn with an organic vegetable garden, eating local food, saving her wash water and calculating her carbon footprint.

But through her “Ethics of Agriculture” course at the Zena Summer Institute in Sustainable Agriculture, Petersen Boring challenges students to develop their own understanding of sustainability.

“By what they choose to eat and how they grow what they eat, students try to stand against the industrial food complex,” she says. “As they develop their individual food ethic, they each have to consider the impacts, both global and regional.”

Integrating sustainability into her classes and personal life has also inspired Petersen Boring to examine nation-wide changes in sustainability education.

Recently, she co-edited and contributed an essay to the book, “Teaching Sustainability: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences,”published last November.

David Orr, a notable politics and environmental science professor from Oberlin College, wrote the forward. Several Willamette students also took part in the project, including Curry ’13 and Emily Dougan ’14, who co-wrote a student forward; and Colleen Smyth ’14, who conducted bibliographic research and copy edited the manuscript.

“It’s really exciting, because people nationally are thinking outside the box on what it means to teach,” Petersen Boring says. “Sustainability education is much more project-based, problem-oriented and transdisciplinary, and there are more partnerships with nonprofits, businesses and other entities outside the university.”

Petersen Boring also works closely with students to examine innovations in sustainability education through the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC). Through LARC, select undergraduates work alongside professors in the summer to study the arts, humanities and social sciences.

During his LARC project with Petersen Boring, Curry says his professor treated him like a peer, not a student. Since completing the project, they have presented their research in tandem at the 2012 Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference, among other conferences.

“My work with Wendy has honed my thoughts around education improvement and increased my ability to work as a change agent,” Curry says. “She has inspired me to continue being a leader wherever I go.”

Petersen Boring says the most rewarding part of her job is watching students, like Curry, connect the lessons of history to their own lives.

“Students go through unbelievable personal transformations, as they grasp questions with more precision, more depth and more complexity,” she says. “By studying history, they find that the conversations of the past are still relevant today.”

• Story by Katie Huber ’13, politics major

Willamette University

History Department

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.